Consider a maple tree for shade in the yard

Maples are definitely one of the more colourful shade trees that can be hardy in our zone 3. Although most maples start their leafing period in hues of green or red, every type of maple has an incredible range of autumn tones once they prepare to enter their dormant stage in fall.

Maple trees need good well-drained soil for their appropriate growth. They also prefer a location with full sunlight throughout the day. Also keep in mind that a maple tree grows very large, will live over 200 years and has an extensive root system capable of breaking through cement foundations, so you must select a site a fair distance from the house, septic system and sewer/utility lines and wires. Do not underestimate the needs for space for a maple event though the tree you are planting now is very small.
You must always remember to plant the tree deeply in a hole that should be twice as wide as the container and in the shape of a saucer. This will enable the roots to spread out well and easily which is a must for maples. Once planted, add a layer of mulch around the trunk of the tree to help retain the soil moisture. Remember to water the newly planted maple trees well. In well drained soil this may mean daily for the first growing season.

The following is a list of the most desirable maple tree species that grow successfully in our area, many of which are found naturally in the forest within the District.

Natural Species:

  • *Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – This native tree is well adapted to yard conditions and moister soils. This will become a very large tree with a very nice form.
  • *Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) – Very hardy, rapid growing tree. Foliage is light green above and silvery beneath. Leaves are more deeply cut than the other species. Although susceptible to maple gall mites (the little red bumps on the leaves) this is the best choice of you want a rapidly growing, attractive shade tree.
  • *Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) – Canada’s native tree known for its brilliant fall colour and for the maple syrup it yields in the spring. Slow growing, recommended for spacious areas. This maple is found naturally on the south end of the city along the Nor’wester Mountains.

Hybridized Species:

  • Autumn Flame Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Flame’). Slower growing with smaller leaves than species. Autumn Flame produces a very symmetrical, rounded crown and brilliant red leaves in the fall. One of the hardiest.
  • *Summer Red Red Maple – (Acer rubrum ‘Summer Red’). Outstanding burgundy coloured red foliage throughout the summer. In autumn, leaves become orange before falling. Forms a dense, broad tree providing welcome summer shade. Needs to watered during times of low precipitation. TIP: If leaves start to revert back to green during the growing season this is a sure sign that it needs to be watered. Highly recommended by the Gardening Guru.
  • *Skinner Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum ‘Skinneri’). A cutleaf form of Silver Maple, the leaves resembles the one of the Japanese Maple. Leaves are very delicate and flutter softly in the breeze. A more upright, and compact tree (branches closer to the trunk) than the natural silver maple. A very interesting ornamental tree with medium green leaves in summer and orange/red colour in fall. Highly recommended by the Gardening Guru.
  • Sugar Maple Legacy (Acer saccharum ‘Legacy’). Legacy Sugar Maple Legacy produces a very symmetrical oval crown. This, combined with its glossy dark green leaves makes it one of the most handsome Sugar Maple in summer. It leaves are quite tough and resist leaf tatter and drought.
  • *Amur Maple (Acer ginnala). A maple shrub (not a tree) that has more delicate leaves that turn brilliant red in the fall. Makes a great landscape speciman. Can be kept trimmed to maintain a desirable shape and size as well. Lives about 20-25 years and grows abut 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide if left to grow on their own. Can be used to create a fantastic hedge, property or wind break.

* the Gardening Guru currently has these species successfully growing in Thunder Bay.

Hopefully this column has provided you with enough information for you to decide on a maple species for your yard. There is a lot to choose from so you can pick something that suits your requirements.